Aggression Summary

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Social Learning Theory

Observation:

  • Learning takes place through the observation of role models
  • Seeing other reinforced or punished acts as vicarious reinforcement

Mental Representation:

  • Individual forms mental representations of events
  • Also forms expectations of possible rewards or punishments

Production of Behaviour:

  • Aggression maintained through direct reinforcement
  • Likelihood of aggression increased if high self-efficacy for production
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Social Learning Theory

Bobo Doll Studies:

  • SLT demonstrated in young children observing aggressive adult model
  • Imitated model, but only if model was rewarded for their behaviour

Evaluation:

  • Learning takes place regardless of outcome, but production linked only to reinforcement
  • SLT also applies to aggression in adults
  • Can explain aggression in absence of direct reinforcement
  • Also explain individual differences and context-dependent learning
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Social Learning Theory

IDA:

  • Cultural differences - absence of aggressive models among !Kung San
  • Problem of demand characteristics in Bobo doll study
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Deindividuation

Nature of Deindividuation:

  • Reduce self-evaluation; decreased concern about evaluation by others
  • Leads to an increase in antisocial behaviour
  • More likely when anonymous in a large crowd

Process of Deindividuation:

  • Social norms usually inhibit antisocial behaviour
  • Inhibitions removed when deindividuated
  • Conditions that increase anonymity weaken barrier to antisocial behaviour
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Deindividuation

Research on Deindividuation:

  • Anonymity - Zimbardo (1969) found longer shocks when anonymous
  • Faceless crowd - lynchings more savagve when large crowds (Mullen, 1986)
  • Baiting crowd (Mann, 1981)

Reduce self-awareness:

  • Reduced self-awareness more important than anonymity
  • In large crowds, less able to self-regulate behaviour
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Deindividuation

Evaluation:

  • Local group norms - people respond to normative cues within the social context
  • Meta-analysis (Postmes and Spears, 1988) found insufficient support for many claims of deindividuation theory
  • Deindividuation may increase prosocial behaviour in some situations
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Deindividuation

IDA:

  • Gender difference - males more likely to become aggressive when deindividuated
  • Cultural difference - cultures that change appearance more brutal in war
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Institutional Aggression

Within groups:

  • Importation model - prisoners bring violent behaviours with them
  • Deprivation model - a reaction to stressful conditions of prison
  • Hazing - institutional bullying based on initiation into group
  • Product of situational forces and cultural notions of 'male' behaviour and toughness

Evaluation:

  • Importation model - some support studies of US prisoners
  • Deprivation model - support from prison studies but not institutions
  • Hazing - research support among inmates in prisons
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Institutional Aggression

Between Groups:

  • Staub (1999) - five stages in process of genocide
  • Dehumanisation - removal of moral restraints against killing other humans (Tutsi)
  • Obedience - Milgram believed situational pressures could coerce people into destructive obedience

Evaluation:

  • Bystanders - non-intervention allows killing to continue
  • Dehumanisation - may explain violence against immigration
  • Obedience - ignores other factors (e.g antisemitism)
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Institutional Aggression

IDA:

  • Dehumanisation is difficult to investigate empirically
  • Ethical issues in studying people who have been subjected to dehumanising violence
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Neural and Hormonal Explanations

Neurotransmitters:

  • Low levels of serotonin and high levels of dopamine asociated with aggression
  • Serotonin normally inhibits responses to emotional stimuli that might lead to an aggressive response
  • Mann (1990) - dexfenfluramine deplete serotonin in brain, and led to an increased aggression in males but not in females
  • Amphetamines increase dopamine activity - also increase aggressive behaviour
  • Antipsychotics reduce dopamine activity - also reduce aggressive behaviour
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Neural and Hormonal Explanations

Neurotransmitter Evaluation:

  • Meta-analysis (Scerbo and Raine, 1993) found evidence for serotonin-aggression link, but not dopamine-aggression link
  • Animal studies suggest lower levels of serotonin associated with aggression and dominance
  • Research support from antidepressants that raise serotonin levels
  • Dopamine may be a consequence rather than a cause of aggression
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Neural and Hormonal Explanations

Hormonal Mechanisms:

  • Meta-analysis have established weak but positive correlation between testosterone and aggression (Archer 1991; Book et al, 2001)
  • Dabbs et al (1987) - testosterone levels high among violent criminals
  • Challenge hypothesis - testosterone levels rise in response to social challenges
  • Cortisol - high levels inhibit testosterone and so inhibit aggression
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Neural and Hormonal Explanations

Hormonal Mechanisms Evaluation:

  • Inconsistent evidence for testosterone-aggression link
  • Influence of testosterone linked to dominance rather than aggression (Mazur, 1985)
  • Cortisol - link supported by study of boys with behavioural problems
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Neural and Hormonal Explanations

IDA:

  • Reductionism - human social behaviour more complex, therefore biological factors represent an incomplete picture
  • Gender bias - research tends to focus on males, but studies of females also show important role for testosterone
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Genetic Factors

Twin Studies:

  • MZ twins genetically identical, more similar levels of aggressive behaviour than DZ twins indicates genetic influence
  • Coccaro et al (1997) - genetic factors account for 50% of variance in aggressive behaviour

Adoption Studies:

  • Possible to disentangle genetic and environmental factors by comparing adopted children and biological parents
  • Hutchings and Mednick (1975) - children with criminal convictions had fathers with criminal convictions
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Genetic Factors

Gene for aggression:

  • Gene for MAOA associated with aggression
  • MAOA regulates serotonin in brain, low levels of serotonin associated with aggression
  • Brunner et al (1993) - violent men in Dutch family had abnormally low levels of MAOA

Genetics and Violent Crime:

  • Inherited temperament or personality characteristics place some individuals at risk of committing violent crime
  • Brennan (1993) - genetic influences significant in property crime but not violent crime
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Genetic Factors

Evaluation:

  • Difficult to determine what is a product of genetic inheritance
  • More than one gene contributes, as do environmental factors, and there is an interaction between the two
  • Problems of measuring aggression
  • Individual differences in aggression due to environmental rather than genetic influences
  • Studies of youth violence do not suggest a strong role for heredity
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Genetic Factors

IDA:

  • Problems of sampling - violent criminals represent small minority of people involved in aggression
  • Some violent criminals are not generally 'aggressive'
  • Animal studies
  • Possibility of genetic engineering creates ethical issues
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Evolutionary Explanations:

Infidelity and Jealousy:

  • Men experience sexual jealousy because of the threat of cuckoldry
  • Sexual jealousy designed to deter a mate from infidelity
  • Males have evolved mate retention strategies
  • Wilson et al (1995) - women whose partners were sexually jealous more likely to have experience violence from them
  • Uxoricide - wife-killing may be unintended outcome of adaptation to control mate
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Evolutionary Explanations:

Evaluation:

  • Use of mate retention strategies and female-directed violence supports by research (Shacklford et al, 2005)
  • Application - use of mate retention strategies is early indication of the need for intervention
  • Uxoricide - alternative explanation by Duntely and Buss (2005), killing wife prevents competitor gaining in reproductive stakes

IDA:

  • Limitations of survey data
  • Most research focused on mate retention stategies by males even though many assaults are by wome
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Explanations of Group Display

Lynch Mobs:

  • Lynchings due to 'fear of the *****' during periods of social transition
  • Power-threat hypothesis - groups that pose threat to majority more likely to be discriminated against

Evaluation:

  • Boyd and Richerson (1990) - research support; groups in which cooperation thrived were those that flurished
  • Clark (2006) - evidence from lynchings in Brazil contradicts idea of 'dangerous classes'
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Explanations of Group Display

Religious Rituals:

  • Costly signalling theory - the costs associated with religious rituals signal commitment to a group
  • Zahavi (1997) - significant costs act as a deterrent for those who do not accept religion but seek advantages of group membership 

Evaluation:

  • Religions requiring the greatest displays of commitment last the longest
  • Costs of rituals should be related to incentives of group membership
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Explanations of Group Display

Sport events:

  • Xenophobia - suspicion about strangers, adaptive as helps avoid attack
  • Demonstrated in xenophobic responses of Italian football crowds
  • Xenophobia more evident with national sides rather than club sides

Evaluation:

  • Research support - Foldesti (1996) found link between xenophobic outbursts and crowd violence among Hungarian football crowds
  • Marsh (1978) - alternative explanation, football violence as a career
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Explanations of Group Display

IDA:

  • Lynch mob behaviour can also be explained in terms of deindividuation
  • Evolutionary approach - increased intra-group solidarity may lead to increased inter-group conflict
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